If you walk out of this restaurant, and you haven’t loosened your belt, you haven’t truly had a Shamaim experience. Meaning “from the sky” in Hebrew, Tokyo’s premier Israeli restaurant serves up nonstop rich flavorful plates of everything from the familiar falafel, breaded steak, fried chicken and hummus to the rarer spicy carrots, garlicy tahini, tomato soup and basmati rice with lentils. Their all-you-can-eat set is incredible and diverse and even my friends who are *gasp* picky eaters, still find enough to satiate even their most tumultuous hunger.
Years ago, as legend goes, when Shamaim was merely an Israeli bar, the owner made falafel once a week. The demands for his falafel were so frequent that eventually the logical thing to do was open a full restaurant. The only complaint I could ever have with Shamaim is that the food is heavy, so heavy; walking home from Ekoda after a Shamaim visit is like lugging a suitcase through Shinjuku during rush hour. But alas, this is perhaps my own fault. An added treat for when you need some non-Japanese food and culture, is the bellydancing performances on Friday nights. Sure to bring out the hava-negila in your tastebuds.
Ekoda station on the Seibu Ikebukuro line.
Exit and turn right, pass McDonalds, then turn right at the T in the road. It’ll be 10 seconds down on your left. Second Floor.
If you want a ghetto style bar then this is the one! Hidden inside a maze of old style Japanese shops, I would guess that burglar alerted people would think twice before entering the maze at night. For the ones who dare to enter can find Namazu in the corner, closest to the Shimo station.
All wrapped in plastic to keep the heat inside during winter where no more then ten Japanese sized people can fit in. The owner serves cheep booze (glass of beer 300yen) from his single square meter booth surrounded by low volume acid jazz. On summer nights there are tables outside and loads of local Japanese… cozy but raw. Open day and night.
Shimo-Kitazawa 2-24 [Map]
Walking into Aveda, the spa and shop in Aoyama in which one could not possibly help but feel pampered by the bio-organic raw materials, offers of massages, aromatherapy, and yoga mats. Not to be overlooked though, is the attached Pure Cafe, a little bit of edible pleasure which leaves one walking out essentially levitating. Every day, Pure puts together sets, and you can choose your essentials, from soups, sandwiches, salads, cookies, and other dishes like vegan lasagna and torte.
I feel required to cover at least the iceberg of the Tokyo vegan scene, and even as an avid omnivore, I wholeheartedly recommend this spot to both my health-conscious friends, my hippie compatriots, and my omnivorous foodies. People often get scared away from veggie food, but Pure doesn’t just mash together a bunch of moldy vegetables into unrecognizable pate, they create simple dishes with simple sauces, food that looks like what it is, and that makes you feel like you are eating a gourmet forest. Also check out their organic wine and beverages and coffee and apparel to go!
5-5-21 Minami Aoyama
Bio Ojiyan Café
For those of us who grew up on oatmeal, eating a bowl of porridge hardly seems sufficient for dinner. But toss on some organic kimchi, grated daikon, raw tuna, and *gasp*, a hot dog that looks like a flower, and you’ve got yourself one grown-up bowl of ojiyan. This Shimo-kitazawa mainstay, although half-hidden just downhill from the quiet west exit, is frequently crowded, with fashionable hipsters and tired musicians drinking a wide array of teas, juices, and interesting natto-covered oatmeal bowls.
There are myriad varieties of toppings for your basic ojiyan concoction, and interesting seasonal ones abound in set-form as well. The homey atmosphere and large windows opening up to the street seem to swell with the rotating art exhibits which cover the exposed concrete all the way back to the couches in back. It’d be hard to remain stressed in an environment like this. The food is light yet filling, and the ambience always makes me feel at home. I’ll be moving in next Wednesday.
Bio Ojiyan Café
Shimo-kitazawa, West Exit.
Exit, turn left, and walk 2 blocks downhill
(Also a branch in Harajuku, but we recommend the relaxation and understatement and unpretension of the Shimokitazawa one.)
Monkey fur, Zebra skin, jaguar, goat, and cow hide were draped around the periphery of the modified commercial basement and for a minute I felt like I wasn’t in the form-fitted establishments of minimalist-design-obsessed Japan. Ethiopian/Eritrean food was one of my reliable favs back in Berkeley/San Francisco and finding it delish and authentic in the middle of Naka-Meguro really made my January.
We went with the Mesob set course and although we were avid eaters, after African samosas, mango daiquiris, a bottle of honey wine, a cassis martini, wild goat and chicken kebabs, and somehow french fries?, we were barely unable to finish the main event: Injera (Ethiopian spongey bread) loaded with various lentil, lamb, and chicken dishes.
I’d go back there every week if my stomach, tastebuds, and wallet could handle it. It’s like an explosion in your mouth with a tumeric soundtrack spinning spicily sauntering sauteed chili pepper alliteration.
Oh! And they play reggae too!
Queen of Sheba comes highly recommended, and would make a great impressive date or a novel group outing. A bit pricey, especially with honey wine and interesting Ethiopian cocktails, but well worth the adventure.
Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant. 1-3-1 Naka–Meguro. Meguro-ku. Tokyo JP, 153-0061. Japan. Phone +81 (0)3 3794 1801. http://www.queensheba.jp